Which Online Grocery Shopping Service is Right for You?
I needed to run to the store to grab a few things and I took the boys with me. As we were walking through the aisles my youngest said, “Woah they sell food here? This is unbelievable,” he marveled as we walked around. The women in the store were having a good laugh. It was at that moment that I realized just how much I grocery shop online.
I’m forever on the quest to simplify my life. I love to use technology to make things easier, and with two kids, it is a necessity. Based on my son’s reaction to the grocery store, one may even say I’ve gone too far. I’m not alone in my obsession. According to industry estimates, online grocers are said to be worth $100 billion by 2025.
That estimate was proof that I’m not alone in my thinking — online grocery shopping may just be the greatest invention ever. Being able to meal plan and shop anywhere, at any time? Amazing!
But which service should you use? After using three different services over the past few years, I have out these services to the test and learned their strengths and weaknesses. Want a comparison of three popular services, Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Peapod?
Let’s go the Chalkboard.
Comparing Grocery Delivery Services
Peapod started in 1989 and services markets in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Orders are fulfilled through one of its 26 distribution centers and then delivered via Peapod drivers.
Instacart began in 2012 in San Francisco and currently serves markets in 42 states. The company hires independent contractors that act as your personal shopper. These shoppers go to the store and do your shopping for you.
Amazon Fresh is a service available to Amazon Prime members. Orders are fulfilled through Amazon and delivered via independent drivers.
Ease of Use
Peapod offers a simple, dedicated app free for Apple and Android. You can always add items up until midnight the night before for afternoon and evening deliveries on Peapod and 3:00 pm for morning deliveries.
Amazon Fresh requires the amazon app on iPhones or you use the website via the browser on a computer. The Amazon iPad app does NOT work with Fresh forcing you to go through the browser. The exact cut-off time from Amazon is listed on the email confirmation. For a 5:00 am delivery the cut-off was 8:30 pm the night before. Also, worth noting is that you cannot cancel items once the order is placed.
You can order items via the Instacart app available via Itunes or Google Play. I have most often done my orders via a browser. I find the website to be slow and it freezes from time to time.
Availability of items
Amazon has more items than Peapod and its inventory system is top-notch. I’ve never had the issue of an item being out of stock after ordering. The website is very clear if an item is available and even lists when an item will be able to be purchased should you wish to change your delivery time to get it.
A few years ago Peapod transitioned from store fulfillment to distribution centers which have had a great impact on their item availability. There used to be one or two items out of stock every order but that hasn’t happened in quite some time.
Instacart works in a different way than competitors. The shoppers are in the store fulfilling your order so they are able to communicate with you in real-time. This can be a great feature for substitutions, however, one recent Instacart order yielded 16 text messages regarding food substitutions. This can be a bit much.
Amazon Fresh is included in the $119 annual cost of Amazon Prime. No additional delivery charges with a minimum order of $50.
Peapod costs $9.95 per delivery with a $60 order minimum and a $6.95 delivery cost with a $100 delivery.
Instacart, oh Instacart. I found your fees so confusing. I make my cart and feel good about all of my purchases. My local store my personal shopper goes to has great prices on produce so as I check out, I always think that my bill is going to be a certain price. I check out and then I feel like things get out of control. There are always a bunch of substitutions that change the final cost. Add to that, the fees. There’s a delivery fee of $9.95, a bag fee of $0.30, a service fee of $8.22 and a tip of $7.21. Now you have no idea what the service fee will be until after checkout.
Also, the first time you use Instacart it isn’t clear that a tip will be added to the final bill. Therefore I gave the driver an additional $5. Needless to say, the fees quickly added up ($25.68 additional on a recent order to be exact). So be aware.
The brief cost comparison is if you use the service weekly and figure a four week month, it would be $2.48 for Amazon Fresh per month (including the Amazon Prime cost) and $27.80 for Peapod (assuming a $100 order per week). Instacart is too difficult to determine the prices because fees fluctuate and coupons are available for free delivery. You can read a detailed cost analysis by product and comparison to grocery store prices here and be sure to read 10 Tips to Save Money Grocery Shopping Online.
Delivery and Packaging
Amazon Fresh has the option of attended or unattended delivery with a two-hour delivery window. Unattended items are left in large paper bags. Freezer items are packaged with dry ice. And as for temperature, the items have always been at the appropriate temperature upon arrival. I have had an item or two squished from poor packing.
Peapod offers only attended delivery. Their drivers have always been professional and will carry your groceries to the kitchen for you. This is great if you aren’t able to carry them yourself. The items are stored in air-conditioned trucks. The driver packs your items from the truck into bags upon arrival at your house so items being poorly packed has never really been an issue.
Instacart has personal shoppers go to the store to do your shopping and then deliver them to your home. There is no special packaging but it is no different than if you were to shop at the store and then drive it home.
It’s sometimes difficult to find where to go for assistance with Amazon Fresh. However, they always send post-delivery emails asking you to rate the service which, from there you can easily contact them. Amazon states that replies will be within 12-24 hours. In my experience, it’s within a few hours and all issues have been rectified reasonably.
Over the years, I have called Peapod multiple times for a few missed items (this was mostly before they created fulfillment centers). Customer service calls were answered promptly and I was never left on hold for more than 2 minutes. The agent on the phone offered to have the items delivered the next day or refund the amount. Refunds were promptly credited, too.
Instacart touts 24-hour customer service with all information easily accessible through the “Help” section of their website. I have not had to contact Customer Service because a majority of issues, were dealt with by the
Amazon Fresh has more availability of items, is slightly cheaper overall and offers unattended delivery which makes it my go-to delivery service. If you like the idea of interfacing with a driver, Peapod is a great choice that offers a simpler app and better Customer Service. Instacart’s pricing and the constant texts from the shopper made it difficult for me to recommend. Regardless of which service you choose, be sure to check out some tips for online grocery shopping.
What do you think? Have you tried online grocery shopping? What do you think of it? Comment below and let me know.